Low Carb Kitchen
CARB SOLUTION: Easter Brunch Quiche
By Dennis Linden
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the affect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].
Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.
A Quickie Glycemic Primer:
A recent internet search for a low-carb quiche recipe, which I wanted to make for a pot luck brunch event, produced a whole first screen of disappointing “no crust” options. While abstinence certainly takes the glycemic risk off the table, literally, I think it’s also a culinary cop out that is easier than coming up with a buttery, flakey, low carb alternative to such an integral component of this classic holiday brunch dish. Besides, isn’t an egg dish without a crust already called a Frittata?
- The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
- The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
Anyway, I eventually found an interesting crust idea using quinoa instead of white flour that, after a little experimenting to get the right balance of measures, not only passed the buttery-flakey test but also represents a significant nutritional upgrade from traditional white flour-based crust. Add a few of Melissa’s convenient, ready-to-use fresh items for the filling -- namely Steamed Artichoke Hearts, Cleaned & Sliced Leeks and diced zucchini -- and voilà! A glycemic-friendly, nutritious quiche pie suitable for the fanciest of Easter brunch buffet table presentations!
While one does not readily think of quinoa as a pie crust ingredient, it really works! It did take a few attempts to the find the right ratio of quinoa to almond flour before settling on a 3:1 mix. Almond “flour” is really just a meal of very finely milled almonds, but it acts like flour and has always been my low carb “go to” ingredient for most baking recipes when I am in need of faux dough of any kind. For this crust, the almond flour blended into the cooked quinoa makes for a better bond as both the agave and the butter are added. It also helps the pre-cooked crust to hold its shape when it is molded to the sides of the pie plate. O.K., so “flakey” may be a little overstating the resulting texture as the combo of quinoa and almond meal is never going to truly replicate pastry dough. Still, the results are light, very buttery and pleasantly crumbly without the carbs. I say close enough!
And speaking of trial and error in the kitchen, the biggest challenge of this recipe is turning out a completely cooked-through pie without also inheriting a “Cajun style” crust, aka blackened. Cautionary note: quinoa is susceptible to burning. I sacrificed my first quinoa quiche shell to the god of carbon even before I smelled the smoke! For the do-over, I solved this problem with some tin foil that covered just the crust at the edge of the pie plate all round. I used this protection for the initial light bake of the empty pie shell too, just so the edges did not get ahead of the rest of the quiche during the final bake. The simplest way to do this is to set the pie plate on a square of foil slightly larger than the plate itself so that the extra foil can be folded up and over the edges of the crust – leaving just the body of the pie exposed. Most importantly, CHECK OFTEN…while a watched pot may never boil, a watched pie will never burn!
The choice of ingredients for the filling are really endless. This recipe makes the construct quick and easy by using Melissa’s pre-cooked and quartered Steamed Artichoke Hearts as well as our no-waste Cleaned & Sliced Leeks. The diced zucchini was thrown in mostly for texture and skin color. Admittedly, the bacon pieces are a personal preference; afterall, a quiche without a little bacon sprinkled throughout falls very short of being the real thing no matter what the kind of crust it comes packaged in! Enjoy your Easter brunch carb-lessly!
Artichoke-Leek Quiche with Quinoa Crust
3 cups White Quinoa, cooked
1 cup Almond Flour
6 tablespoons Butter, softened to room temperature
4 tablespoons Agave Syrup
6 large eggs
¼ cup half-and-half
1 package Melissa’s Steamed Artichoke Hearts, drained, liquid reserved
½ cup Melissa’s Cleaned & Sliced Leeks
1 cup zucchini, sliced into thin rounds, then quartered
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
To make the crust: Combine the cooked quinoa, almond flour and agave syrup together in a large mixing bowl. Using a fork, fold in the butter until evenly mixed throughout. Press this mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake this empty pie shell at 400° for 20 minutes or until crust begins to brown just slightly.
For the filling: Whisk together eggs, half-and-half, and artichoke liquid in a large bowl. Stir in artichoke hearts, leeks and zucchini. Pour egg mixture into piecrust, sprinkle in the bacon. To avoid burning the crust’s edges, encase the pie pan in foil so the foil will overlap and protect edges of the crust only. Bake at 375°F until center is set and crust is golden, about 45 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before slicing.